Fight the Bite: Mosquito Control Awareness Week is June 26-July 1

mosquito-control-aw-cropped.jpgAfter a particularly wet winter and spring in California, mosquito season has arrived. National Mosquito Control Awareness Week, June 26–July 1, is an ideal time to take preventative measures that will help you fight the bite of mosquitoes this summer.

The American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) emphasizes the “3 D’s” of protection from mosquitoes—drain, dress, and defend.

Drain. Because mosquitoes can lay eggs in a source of water as small as a bottle cap, it’s important to empty all sources of standing water around the home such as flower pots, old tires, children’s toys, and buckets and storage containers. AMCA also recommends drilling holes in the bottom of recycling containers and changing water regularly in pet dishes and bird baths.

“Don’t forget that your rain gutters, tree holes, old buckets or tires—they all make excellent spots for mosquitoes to lay their eggs,” said Joseph Conlon, a technical advisor for AMCA. “Mosquitoes require water to complete their life cycle. If their water source is eliminated, so are their offspring.”

Dress. Light-colored, loose-fitting clothing is best to prevent mosquito bites. Studies have shown many species of mosquitoes are more attracted to dark clothing, according to AMCA, and often they are able to bite through tight clothing. Whenever practical, long sleeves and pants are best.

Defend. The Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California recommends applying insect repellent containing Environmental Protection Agency-registered active ingredients such as DEET, picaradin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 according to label instructions. DEET can be used safely on infants and children 2 months of age and older.

To cut down on mosquitoes in animal water troughs or ponds, stocking mosquitofish is recommended. Many local vector control agencies will provide mosquitofish to homeowners free of charge.

Fewer mosquito bites and less annoying buzzing will help consumers get the most enjoyment out of summer outdoor activities.

Drone Use Takes Off in Land Surveying

shutterstock_633132635As more and more hobbyists use drones to capture memorable video and photos, commercial uses for unmanned aerial vehicles continues to expand at a rapid rate, from monitoring agricultural crops to crowd control by law enforcement.

Among those emerging commercial uses for drones is land surveying. In its spring newsletter Bulletin, the state Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists (Board) outlined the growth of drone use in land surveying based on lower costs and availability of easy-to-use software. But the Board also warned of potential drawbacks—such as upstart companies entering into the unlicensed practice of land surveying.

The Board emphasized that the burgeoning industrial drone market—which will exceed $20 billion globally by 2021, according to an analysis by Deloitte—has spurred a variety of companies offering services that include drone flight planning, piloting, and photography. However, for consumers needing a land surveyor for such things as establishing property lines or elevation analysis data, it’s critical to use the services of licensed land surveyors.

In the spring Bulletin, the Board stated: “No matter how field data are acquired, the process of locating any fixed works designed by a civil engineer or determining alignments or elevations is required by law to be performed by, or under the responsible charge of, persons licensed to perform land surveying.”

Furthermore, the Board said, mapping produced by those who may not have the training, education, and experience of a licensed land surveyor has the potential to put the public at risk through faulty data.

Consumers who need the services of a land surveyor should check that the individual or company they are considering is licensed by the state through the Board’s website, www.bpelsg.ca.gov.

Senior Scam Stopper Seminars Scheduled

senior scamSenior citizens are often a favorite target for scam artists such as unlicensed or unscrupulous contractors.

That’s why knowledge is power. If seniors have the tools and information needed to spot a fake or notice red flags before something happens, the better they will be able to protect themselves.

Since 1999, the Contractors State License Board has been sponsoring Senior Scam Stopper seminars across the state to help combat and bring awareness to these types of scams. The events are held in cooperation with legislators, state and local agencies, law enforcement, district attorneys, and community-based organizations.

Seminars provide information about construction-related scams and how seniors can protect themselves when hiring a contractor. Speakers also often make presentations about broader topics, including identity theft, auto repair, Medicare, fake foreign lotteries, and mail fraud.

Upcoming Senior Stopper Seminars include:

  • Thursday, May 25, in Lynwood from noon to 2 p.m.
  • Tuesday, May 30, in North Hollywood from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Tuesday, May 30, in Sun Valley from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday, May 31, in Mission Hills from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday, May 31, in Pacoima from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

CSLB also offers a brochure titled What Seniors Should Know Before Hiring a Contractor. The brochure is available in both English and Spanish and can be ordered online or by calling (800) 321-CSLB (2752). For more information about Senior Scam Stopper events in your area, contact CSLB’s outreach coordinator at (916) 255-3273.

CAL FIRE Wildfire Warnings, a New App, and a Chance to Win $10,000

May 7–13 is Wildfire Awareness Week, and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) is urging homeowners to prepare now for the dry, flammable season ahead. California’s wet winter has brought an abundance of spring grass and brush, which, after it dries, will pose great fire danger.

Removing excess vegetation around homes and maintaining 100 feet of defensible space can raise the odds that your home—or any other structures on your property—will survive a wildfire.

CAL FIRE has launched a new app, Ready for Wildfire, which puts a library of step-by-step, wildfire preparedness checklists, emergency preparation information and more in the palm of a user’s hand. In conjunction with the app launch, CAL FIRE is sponsoring the Ready for Wildfire Sweepstakes through May 21 for a chance to win up to $10,000 when the app is downloaded or updated.

The app can be downloaded at the App Store or on Google Play by searching for “Cal Fire”.

 

Home Improvement Projects That Will Pay Off for Sellers

With low inventory levels and a strong housing sellers’ market in California, you may be thinking it’s a good time to sell your home—or start making some improvements in preparation of selling. A few upgrades may be the difference between a disappointing home-selling experience and finding a buyer willing to pay your asking price or maybe a little more.

So, without draining your bank account, what can be done to your house to maximize its value when it comes time to sell? Below are some home improvement projects that are relatively inexpensive—a few thousand dollars or less, and much less in some cases—that could be the difference in convincing potential buyers that yours is the perfect home for them.shutterstock_50097079

Fresh paint. This is an inexpensive first step, along with a thorough cleaning, that should be done by nearly all homeowners ready to sell. The scuffs and seemingly minor blemishes you may have gotten used to can turn off a potential buyer. Avoid bold colors. The purple your son or daughter may be fond of in their bedroom may make others cringe. Real estate agents recommend staying neutral with colors to appeal to the most buyers.

Front-yard facelift. In short, curb appeal is crucial—and first impressions count. Having a nice yard tells people you take pride in the home and it is well cared for. Small upgrades like a paver pathway or adding new bark mulch under a tree can have a significant impact. A splash of color with some fresh flowers or a few bright planted pots is an easy way to perk up a front yard. Be sure your shrubs and hedges are trimmed; crisp lawn edges are always a nice touch.

Front door. A new or repainted front door can be an easy and fairly inexpensive way to make a positive initial impression with prospective buyers. It’s a custom touch that adds visual appeal and can set your home apart from similar-looking facades in the neighborhood.

Lighting. Experts universally agree that dark spaces are not appealing. Adding canned or recessed lighting to a bathroom or kitchen can dramatically alter a room’s appearance. Because electrical jobs can be tricky and potentially dangerous for novices, hiring a qualified contractor may be a wise choice. The Contractors State License Board is a good place to start, with the “Check a License” online tool providing information on whether a contractor is licensed, insured, and in good standing. CSLB licenses nearly 300,000 contractors in 43 different classifications.

Bathroom. A few upgrades can enhance the appearance of a bathroom immensely. Replacing dated fixtures or adding a mirror can provide a modern look, and re-grouting a shower may be well worth the time and effort.

Kitchen. Experts often single out the kitchen as a potential deal-breaker when it comes to selling a home, but it’s easy to spend a lot of money on upgrades. Because kitchens are often a matter of personal taste and may be overhauled by new owners anyway, focus on any negatives that could be potential turnoffs. Have you been getting by with a particularly old dishwasher or microwave? Could your cabinets use new hardware or refacing? Does the counter tile grout need a good scrubbing? When it comes time to show the home, avoid cluttered countertops by putting away everything but absolute necessities—the more visible counter space the better.

Flooring. Experts say that old, worn, or dirty flooring can be a major buyer turnoff. As a starting point, any carpets should be thoroughly cleaned, with particular attention paid to the entryway area. If deep-cleaning isn’t going to be enough to revive your carpets—and you can afford it—consider investing in new carpets or engineered wood flooring. If you already have wood flooring, brighten them up with a mopping or other product treatment.

If you decide to hire a contractor for any home improvement projects, remember that anyone who contracts to perform work in California valued at $500 or more for combined labor and materials costs must have a valid CSLB license. The CSLB website provides information on finding and hiring the right type of contractor and on home improvement contracts.

If you’re looking for a real estate agent, or have any questions about buying or selling a home, the Bureau of Real Estate offers a license search, consumer information, and more in the “Consumers” section of its website.

 

Don’t Let Good Medicines Go Bad

There are a lot of things to check around the house as California starts heating up for summer; one of them is that your medications are being stored properly. Medications that are good for you can become ineffective or damaged when exposed to heat.

While outdoor heat can damage medications, year-round heat inside the house can cause trouble as well. Most people store medicines in a bathroom cabinet; heat and steam from showers and sinks can damage medicines, diminishing their potency, or cause them to go bad before the expiration date. 

Experts recommend consumers store medicines in a cool, dry place such as a dresser drawer or kitchen cabinet away from any hot appliances or the sink. Also avoid potential problems by not exposing medicines to the sun or leaving them in a hot vehicle. Most importantly, drugs should always stored out of the reach and sight of children—and teens. Prescription drug abuse has become an epidemic and can lead to addiction, overdose, or even death. Take 30 seconds to watch this message from the State Board of Pharmacy regarding prescription drug abuse: 

Never take any medicines after the expiration date, and don’t take medicine that has changed color, texture, or smell, even if it has not expired. If you have drugs that need to be disposed of, make sure you do it safely; National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is this Saturday, April 29. To find a drop-off location near you, go to https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/index.html.

It’s always wise to consult a pharmacist, who can provide product-specific advice for storing  and preserving medicines. There are other reasons to talk to your pharmacist; make sure the prescription you pick up is the right medication and dosage prescribed by your doctor. Watch this message from the State Board of Pharmacy: 

For more consumer tips and information and to verify a pharmacist’s license, go to http://www.pharmacy.ca.gov.

New Outlook for Preventing Peanut Allergies

shutterstock_348863390Millions of children in the United States suffer from food allergies, and the most common dietary culprit for kids is peanuts. Growing awareness of peanut allergies has led to peanut-free camps, childcare facilities, and schools.

For years, the common belief among experts was that avoiding peanuts altogether was the best solution, but that philosophy has shifted in the wake of recent studies showing children introduced to peanut products (not peanuts themselves, which are a serious choking hazard) at a young age had a sharply lower risk of developing a peanut allergy—up to 80 percent lower.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), after years of recommending that families with any peanut allergy history avoid feeding infants any peanut products when they start on solid food, has changed course. The AAP now advises pregnant women not to avoid any particular food groups in hopes that the exposure will reduce food allergies in children long-term.

The most recent evidence backing the research comes from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which issued new guidelines for doctors and parents. The guidelines address how to safely expose children to peanuts from an early age, and divide babies into three groups.

The first includes those with severe eczema or are already allergic to eggs—they are considered at high risk of developing a peanut allergy. The NIAID advises these babies be tested for a peanut allergy, and parents should consult their doctor about how and when to introduce peanut products. A doctor should be contacted very early, in the two- to four-month range.

For the other two groups—babies with mild to moderate eczema and those without any known allergies—testing isn’t necessary, although parents should still consult a doctor about their child’s situation. For these babies, the guidelines call for parents to introduce peanut products gradually, in small amounts, beginning at six months.

Parents can check on the status of a doctor’s license at the Medical Board of California’s website (www.mbc.ca.gov).

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month

blog_posterFluoridated water is the focus of the American Dental Association‘s (ADA’s), message for this year’s National Children’s Dental Health Month.

The slogan “Choose Tap Water for a Sparkling Smile” is featured on the ADA 2017 campaign poster as part of its effort to promote good oral health for young people and their caregivers. Decades of research have shown that an optimal level of fluoride in community water is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay by at least 25 percent.

Simply by drinking water, both young and old can benefit from fluoride’s cavity protection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named community water fluoridation one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

The ADA says the average teenage boy in the U.S. consumes 81 gallons of soft drinks a year. A steady diet of sugary foods and drinks can ruin teeth, especially for those who snack throughout the day. Common activities can also contribute to tooth decay,including habitually grazing on foods with minimal nutritional value and frequently sipping on sugary drinks.

The ADA offers these tips to reduce potential tooth decay in kids:

  • Limit between-meal snacks. If kids crave a snack, offer them nutritious foods.
  • If your kids chew gum, make it sugarless—chewing sugarless gum after eating can increase saliva flow and help wash out food and decay-producing acid.
  • Monitor beverage consumption: Instead of sipping soft drinks all day, children should choose water or low-fat milk.
  • Help your children develop good brushing and flossing habits.
  • Schedule regular dental visits.

To find a qualified dentist, visit the Dental Board of California website to do a license search.

Coloring and puzzle activity sheets promoting oral health for kids are available in both English and Spanish on the ADA website.

Drought Conditions Still Persist in Some Areas of the State

After a series of super-soaker storms descended on much of California in January, the obvious question is: Is the state still in a drought?

The short answer is it depends on what part of the state you’re talking about.

Source: California Department of Water Resources

Source: California Department of Water Resources

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) estimates 60 percent of the state in Central and Southern California still faces “moderate” or “severe” drought conditions.

“Much of the state has not recovered from the severe drought conditions that have persisted for the past four years,” the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) stated in a news release. “Moreover, measurements by the Department of Water Resources indicate that the statewide snowpack is about 70 percent of average for early January.”

Northern California reservoir storage is healthy, while watersheds to the south still lag behind. Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville are at 82 and 81 percent of capacity, respectively, while Terminus and Isabella reservoirs in the southland are at just 31 and 35 percent of capacity, respectively.

On January 3, the Department of Water Resources’ first snow survey of the season in the Sierra Nevada mountains, where the snowpack makes up about one-third of California’s water supply, totaled just 70 percent of the historic average for that date. However, that figure should rise sharply when the next survey is conducted after a series of storms dumped several feet of the white stuff in the ensuing two weeks.

Facing unprecedented drought conditions statewide, in 2015, SWRCB ordered 400 urban water districts to cut usage by an average of 25 percent compared to 2013. With conditions improving significantly in many regions, SWRCB backed off those restrictions in May, allowing many water districts to set conservation targets based on projected shortages.

After a water-logged January, the SWRCB is debating whether to lift all drought regulations as much of the state receives above-average precipitation for the first time in years. The Board is likely to vote February 7 on lifting the eased restrictions.

Find out more about the drought and water conservation at www.saveourwater.com.

MMA Event Gets an Unintentional Promo From Hollywood

Mixed martial arts (MMA) and, specifically, the Bellator 170 event at the L.A. Forum in Inglewood on January 21, made headlines last week after gaining attention from an unlikely source–famed actress Meryl Streep.

Bellator MMA boss Scott Coker invited Meryl Streep to a fight after she mentioned MMA in a Golden Globes acceptance speech on January 8. Photo/JOSH HEDGES/FORZA LLC/FORZA LLC VIA GETTY IMAGES; PAUL DRINKWATER/NBCUNIVERSAL VIA GETTY IMAGES

Bellator MMA boss Scott Coker (above) invited Meryl Streep (inset) to attend Bellator 170 after she mentioned MMA in a Golden Globes acceptance speech on January 8. Photo/JOSH HEDGES/FORZA LLC/FORZA LLC VIA GETTY IMAGES; PAUL DRINKWATER/NBCUNIVERSAL VIA GETTY IMAGES

After receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, Streep gave a politically charged acceptance speech, part of which was aimed at Donald Trump’s negative stance on illegal immigrants. It was at that point that she gave MMA and football an unintentional boost.

“So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners,” Streep said, “and if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.”

The off-the-wall reference received national media attention, much of it focusing on the fact that MMA is an extremely diverse, global sport. As the Washington Post headline said, “Meryl Streep slammed mixed martial arts. She doesn’t know what she’s missing.”

Scott Coker, the president of MMA promotional company Bellator—which is putting on the event headlined by Chael Sonnen versus Tito Ortiz with oversight from the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC)—seized the opportunity to formally invite Streep to Bellator 170 via Twitter.

Bellator's Scott Coker posted this tweet on January 8, inviting Meryl Streep to attend Bellator 170.

Bellator’s Scott Coker posted this tweet on January 8, inviting Meryl Streep to attend Bellator 170.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There has been no word if Streep will accept the invitation, but the jolt of publicity surely helped shine a light on the worldwide reach and diversity of MMA.